Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Always More

I needed a great ending shot for a video I was shooting to accompany the song, "God of This City." My son, Evan, had done a similar video for his church, and I was anxious to feature Northwest Arkansas in my project, as he had featured Memphis in his.

He ended his edit with a super shot of the sun setting over the Hernando DeSoto Bridge, which spans the Mississippi River between downtown Memphis and the Arkansas delta to the west.

"Great shot," I remember thinking as I watched his finished project. "I'm sure I can catch something similar." I'm not embarrassed to steal a great idea now and then. Besides, it's not like no one's done it before. But it was a particularly good shot.

Wasn't as easy as I thought. I shot footage for about three weeks, heading out at various times of day, from early morning to late evening. I caught a wide array of shots around Bentonville and Rogers, people on the road, at work, at play; or just beautiful landscapes that I felt illustrated the dichotomy that is Northwest Arkansas, such as a shot featuring a sturdy old barn juxtaposed with the multi-story Embassy Suites Hotel just beyond, nestled among the upscale Pinnacle Hills office and retail area.

There was certainly no lack of subject matter. I could have shot for months and never told the full story, but I had a deadline and it was time to start editing. I would have plenty to work with.

But I had no sunset. The sky hadn't cooperated for the last several days. When I began shooting, there were some spectacular sunsets, but they appeared on evenings when I didn't have my camera with me, or when I had pressing appointments pulling me on.

This was my final day of shooting. I had no sunset shot, and the sky didn't look promising. I determined to get a shot, anyway, so I called Leslie and told her I wouldn't be home for supper, that I was heading out to the lake to attempt a sunset shot before I came home. I had looked online to see when the sun was to set -- 5:18, and add an hour for daylight savings time -- so I checked my watch and headed out. Plenty of time to make the sunset at 6:18.

Halfway to my destination, I looked over my shoulder to the west and noticed that the sun was much farther down than I thought it should be. It was only 5:00. I should have another hour and eighteen minutes. Then it hit me: we weren't in daylight savings time yet. I didn't need to add that hour.

There was a golf cart business just ahead, so I turned in, screeched into a parking place, and pulled out my camera. I noticed someone inside the store watching me, so I jogged over to ask permission to shoot from his lot before he could start selling me a golf cart I certainly didn't need.

The man told me to shoot away, so I propped my camera on his business sign and started shooting. I wanted a pretty long shot that I could speed up to show the sun setting quickly. The flag would add a nice dimension, as well as the cupola atop the bank next door. Decent, though not the shot I had envisioned. It would have to do.

My plans don't work out very often, it would seem. My life is a long story of multiple instances of Tim's plan vs. God's, and it takes me a long time and many repetitions to learn that His way is always best. Just like the Israelites wandering in the desert. Many lessons, little learning.

Eighteen minutes later, the sun finished its daily run, and I turned off the camera, disappointed in the lack of a wispy display of clouds and atmospheric dust that would have made for a much more pleasing shot.

My plan, once again, just didn't work out. Instead of a spectacular sunset, I had an indistinct, yellow glow fading in a bland, characterless sky. Not a great way to end a video.

Dave, the man in the store to whom I had spoken earlier, made his way out as I was loading my gear to leave. "How did it go," he asked.

"Oh, just fine," I answered, trying not to sound too dejected. "I appreciate you letting my shoot here." I hopped into the van and prepared to leave.

He spoke again. "I've seen some great sunsets out here during the last week or so. Made me wish I had a camera."

I nodded and thought, yeah, wish I had been here then instead of now.

"You know," he said, "if you stick around a while and point your camera the other way, a great big, pie-faced moon will rise up over in the east. Beautiful sight!"

Not the way I wanted my video to end. I didn't need a moon, I needed a gorgeous, God-painted sunset and another day to shoot it. "Well, thanks again," I offered, and closed my door, started the van and drove away.

I couldn't bring myself to head home just yet, so I drove around a bit more, hoping for a brilliant shot to jump in front of me. I shot a few more traffic shots, a brightly lit shopping area, the hospital. Nothing exciting. I was done.

Nearly home, I decided to pull onto a short road that parallels the interstate before it dead ends into an empty field ridged by trees. I got yet another shot of headlights streaming by, still uneasy about not getting that perfect ending shot for my video. There was a large, brightly lit billboard over my right shoulder, so I angled my camera this way, then that, trying to get an artsy frame or two. It was then that I saw it: a big, pie-faced moon peeking over the treetops to the east.

Why not, I thought. I positioned my lens to capture the moon. This big, boring moon. I'll get a few frames, then head home.

But as I focused the lens and set my iris for the best exposure, I was overwhelmed by beauty and majesty, by the power of a barren sphere floating in a black sky, crossing the plane of my lens.

Crossing my lens: that's what amazed me most. I've never stared down the moon long enough to see it track across the sky. Prior to that moment, I've only caught quick glimpses of the moon, snapshots at most. It's here. Now it's there. Big deal.

Watching the moon track is a whole different experience. I let the video roll. I knew my battery was getting low, so I prayed it would last until the moon moved out of the frame, and my prayer was answered.

I had my shot. My mediocre sunset wasn't the end, after all.

There's always more.

God of This City: Northwest Arkansas from GRACE POINT CHURCH on Vimeo.


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